American Dream Just Weeks Away From Starting Meadowlands Complex Madness

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For Meadowlands Racetrack regulars, FanDuel Meadowlands Sportsbook visitors, and anyone who lives in North Jersey, a multi-stage launch of the 3 million square foot shopping and entertainment behemoth that will be American Dream Meadowlands always was preferable.

That wasn’t operator Triple Five’s original plan when it came aboard more than eight years ago. But that’s what we will get, it turns out — and even more of a multi-stage rollout than was forecast earlier this year.

The Oct. 25 launch — a mere 17 years after the predecessor Meadowlands Xanadu project was proposed — remains on target.

But a Women’s Wear Daily report last week noted that the highly anticipated luxury shopping section that will be known as “The Collections” will not debut until spring 2020.

That means a missed opportunity for high-end retailers such as Hermes that will not be offering their wares for the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season.

The Legoland Discovery Center and SEA Life Aquarium also will not be ready to go until next year.

The American Dream sign that’s now complete (see above) was several letters short as of late July

Glass-half-full report

So what’s left for next month’s opening weekend, which happens to be taking place when neither the Giants nor the Jets have a home game?

From what we hear, the Nickelodeon-themed indoor amusement park should be a “go.” The two dozen or so rides — particularly some record-breaking rollercoasters — should provide some “wow” appeal.

Ditto the indoor snow park, which was constructed more than a decade ago along with about three-quarters of the facility.

As for the indoor water park, last year Triple Five had claimed a spring 2019 launch for much of the complex but a delayed debut for the water park.

That makes its launch timing a bit uncertain.

With more than 1 million square feet of retail overall, there should be plenty of traditional mall retailers opening their doors next month, despite the absence of “The Collections” section for now.

If the observation wheel — think London Eye — as well as the theater complex, performing arts center, NHL-sized hockey rink, and miniature golf courses are ready as well, that might be enough to at least somewhat quiet the skeptics.

Navigating the complex

Of course, there is a longstanding balancing act contemplated by New Jerseyans: The more successful the project is, the more traffic nightmares.

But the less successful it is, the lower the state tax revenues and the fewer the jobs created.

New Jersey Transit has just announced that it will run express buses every half-hour from both New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal and Secaucus Junction, the massive transfer station located only a few miles away.

That should help, as should a heavy-rail link that connects to the Meadowlands Sports Complex and hundreds of millions of dollars in nearby road improvements (much of it doubling ramps off the many major highways in the region).

The train from Secaucus to Jets or Giants games, soccer games, and concerts is convenient for those visitors because the train stop is right in the parking lot of MetLife Stadium.

But American Dream is located across Route 120 from the station.

On a nice day, able-bodied American Dream-bound visitors with time to kill after the brief train ride can make a simple walk across the parking lot, up some stairs, across a “cattle crossing” overpass, down some stairs, and then into American Dream.

But if you’re elderly, have a disability, have young children, don’t like to walk, don’t like humid or frigid weather, don’t like rain or snow, or don’t want to schlep your shopping purchases and souvenirs — well, this is not so convenient.

There have been plans pitched for a Disney-like tram that would transport you across the covered cattle crossing, but that would only solve part of the issue.

Regular train service from Secaucus also will help.

But will the numerous visitors — estimates have run from 30 million to 50 million annually — plus employees clog the roads?

Weekends to watch

The Oct. 25 opening date is on a Friday, and that will be quite an event. Then comes Saturday, when the racetrack again will feature evening racing — and all-day simulcasting visitors who may be surprised at the traffic.

Sunday, Oct. 27 works out well because the Giants will play in Detroit while the Jets will be in Jacksonville. Bergen County’s “blue laws” will prevent the retail segment from making sales, but the entertainment portions will be open.

On Sunday, Nov. 3, the Giants have a home game against NFC East rival Dallas, but the game doesn’t start until 8:15 p.m., which will ease the traffic crunch.

So the day to watch — and possibly wince — is Nov. 10, when the Jets host the Giants in a once-every-four-years contest.

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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